What is the Land Grant Trophy?

    The Land Grant Trophy is one of the most unique trophies in college football. But what does it look like, and who competes for it each season?

    There are plenty of trophies up for grabs across college football as we enter rivalry week. Just one of the trophies that will be won is the Land Grant Trophy, which will be lifted at Ford Field in Detroit on Black Friday.

    While there will be plenty of trophies hoisted across college football’s rivalry weekend, none are as unique as the Land Grant Trophy.

    Who Competes for the Land Grant Trophy?

    The Land Grant Trophy is shared between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Michigan State Spartans. It is competed for annually between the two schools.

    The rivalry game has been played on the last week of the regular college football season every year since the start of the rivalry, except from 2011 to 2013 when the two schools were placed momentarily in different divisions within the Big Ten.

    The all-time series is tied between the two schools at 18-18-1. However, since the Land Grant Trophy was introduced — in the early ‘90s — Penn State leads the series 17-10.

    Why Is it Called the Land Grant Trophy?

    When Penn State entered the Big Ten in 1993, they were provided with a rivalry against Michigan State but with no natural rivalry between the two schools, they needed something to link them. The Big Ten is full of rivalries but no history or geography connected the two, so they landed on the only common theme.

    Both Penn State and Michigan State are land-grant universities. That means that both schools are institutions of higher education that get benefits from the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. It’s a technicality that grants land to allow the raising of funds for the institutions that focus on engineering, science, agriculture, and the military.

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    The Land Grant Trophy was named because of this land-grant status that linked the two schools.

    Similarly, most of the Big Ten are also designated as land-grant schools, such as Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. But, the link was enough to create a trophy. And no college football rivalry is real unless they have a trophy to play for!

    What Does the Land Grant Trophy Look Like?

    In a press conference in 2022, Penn State head coach James Franklin called the Land Grant Trophy “the most beautiful trophy in all of college football”. While PSU linebacker Jonathan Sutherland called it “a big block of wood.”

    But, whether you think the Land Grant Trophy is a thing of beauty or an eye-soar, it does reflect some of the history of the two schools.

    The Trophy has a deep mahogany frame, is extremely heavy, and is stained to be weatherproof. On the side, it has plaques that have engraved plates that name the winner of the trophy since its inception.

    There are the two emblems of the schools on the front of the trophy. A Lion sits towards the top for Penn State, with a Spartan just below for Michigan State. At the bottom of the front panel are photos of the two schools: the Bell Tower at Penn State and the Beaumont Tower at Michigan State. The whole trophy is then topped off with a gold figurine of a football player.

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